Rahul Dravid dons a new avatar

Written by: Suresh Parekh
Published: Monday, March 26, 2001, 16:15 [IST]
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Rajkot: Harbhajan Singh may have been the difference between the two teams with his dream bowling, Laxman may have played one of the all-time-great innings from an Indian in the highest form of cricket, Sachin may have performed in his usual way but the best thing to happen in this series was the sheer refreshing attitude which Rahul Dravid displayed which indeed turned out to be a huge factor for his big success midway through the series.

In One-day cricket, we all know that one cricketer can be a champion or a match-winner but in Test cricket a single cricketer cannot guide the team on a winning path all the time. This is what was reflected in the just concluded India-Australia series.

This series was no challenge for someone like Sachin Tendulkar as he had already proved his class and mettle against Australia in India as well as in Australia, but it was indeed a challenge for someone like Rahul Dravid who was a failure in Australia, too, when India toured last year.

Dravid was too self-conscious when he toured Down Under. The first thing he decided was never to gift his wicket to Shane Warne. But this Warne syndrome forced him to take a bit of more care of Warne and this indeed affected his natural game by miles and in the very first Test he lost his wicket to none other than Shane Warne. Throughout that series Rahul was never in his element and he finished the tour on a not-so-high note.

So the present series was indeed important for him to establish that he is one of the best technically equipped batsman in the world. Come Mumbai Test, much was indeed expected from him, but it was the same old story. Again he gifted his wicket to Warne and that too in a poor fashion. It seemed that Dravid would never play his natural game against Warne.

In the Kolkata Test, Dravid failed in the first essay and for a moment it seemed all was lost for this highly talented batsman. He knew that failure in the second knock might jeopardise his own position in the team as batsman like Hemang Badani was eagerly awaiting his call. Ganguly too knew that things were not all that rosy for his vice-captain. He decided to change his batting order from three to six. To many it sounded like an insult to him but it worked perfectly and turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as Dravid himself confessed later.

Dravid himself came to the conclusion that he has to prove his batting skill and when he stepped on the field after his captain's departure he was altogether a different willow man. Just after seeing a few balls he started hitting the ball more powerfully and with more authority. Indeed it was the approach more than skill that mattered most.

At the other end, Laxman was batting like a champion and that gave him the much needed confidence and when Shane Warne was introduced into the attack first thing Rahul Dravid did was to step out of the crease and hit a glorious on-drive followed by superb a square-drive.

Dravid had established his command over Shane and McGrath and all of a sudden he started batting with such a refreshing attitude that it was indeed difficult to come to a conclusion as to whether one was deriving more pleasure watching Laxman or Dravid.

Laxman's 281 was a magnum opus but Rahul's 180 was classic. It was a new 'avatar' of one of the most soft-spoken cricketer to have ever played for India. It was the same refreshing attitude, which again saw him play another wonderful innings of 80 in the Chennai Test.

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